My Love-Hate Relationship with Food. ~ Terri Tremblett

Via on May 16, 2013

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It’s not what you think—I do not have an issue with my weight.

I do, however, have an issue with food, or more specifically, with eating it.

I have several chronic health conditions and multiple severe allergies (I’m allergic to everything…well, almost). But, food was never an issue for me until one day it suddenly was.

My love-hate relationship with food began with developing an allergy to yeast and to everything that contained even a trace of it. (That’s right: no more bread, buns, pizza or croissants.) If you read labels when you’re grocery shopping, you may know that yeast is an ingredient in a lot of foods. I never bought many packaged foods, but who doesn’t like to have a few Doritos once in a while? (Yes, they have yeast extract in them, which is a sneaky name for MSG. Sometimes life is not fair.)

When I least expected it, my life included reading labels and asking about ingredients when I was eating out.

I learned to adapt—mostly. I missed bread, but yeast triggered a severe reaction and a migraine so it was not hard to convince myself to avoid it.

After a while, my yeast-less eating became a part of who I was and I grew accustomed to friends and family pointing out things that I couldn’t eat.

“I made a salad, but it has croutons in it,” or,

“Here’s the box if you want to read the ingredients.”

My usual question became, “Can I eat that?”

I remember stopping at a restaurant while on a road trip and finding very little on the menu that I could eat. My order? A chicken sandwich, hold the bread.

But it didn’t end there…I developed more health problems, and subsequently more problems with food. More doctors, more specialists, more tests—I began to understand how those lab animals felt.

After a few years on my medical mystery tour, I finally had another diagnosis to add to my list—Meniere’s Disease—and a new way of eating that would have to become a way of life in order for me to have any hope of feeling well, even some of the time.

My ENT specialist recommended a strict low-sodium diet (less than 1400 mg per day), and told me to also avoid caffeine and alcohol. I was also told to drink lots of water. (The disease causes a fluid imbalance in the inner ear, which leads to dizziness, vertigo and balance issues…eliminating things that cause the body to retain fluid is necessary to help manage symptoms.) My family call it the “no fun” diet.

The changes were difficult at first—especially the sodium—not only is it added to almost everything on the planet, it is also naturally-occurring in many foods.

I was never a “salt shaker” person, but when I first started cutting back on sodium, I really noticed the difference…and the fact that even a little dash of salt (that I could no longer have) made things taste better.

But, I stuck with it, and after a couple of weeks I didn’t miss the sodium as much. Many people are aware that the average person in North America consumes too much sodium, but what you may not have heard is that it’s surprisingly easy to get used to eating less of it.

The recommended dietary changes started to improve my symptoms, and I knew that I would probably never feel “well” much of the time even if I did everything perfectly (it’s the nature of my combined health issues), but I still had enough symptoms that I suspected there were others foods that were affecting me.

So, I became a food detective.

*Please note that I am not a medical practitioner, nor do I claim to be an expert—that’s my disclaimer. I am sharing my experiences as a way of demonstrating my belief that what we eat has a profound effect on our well-being.

I began keeping a food journal, writing down every single thing I ate and logging my symptoms. This way, I could look for patterns.

With the help of a naturopathic doctor, I also eliminated foods that are known allergens for many people, (dairy, wheat, citrus) then gradually added them back into my diet to see how I reacted. Some things like citrus and strawberries I was able to add back in…other things—like wheat—caused problems, not just with my recent health issues, but with former ones too. (I’ll spare you the details…you’re welcome.)

As a result, I adopted a gluten-free lifestyle, and also discovered that both sugar and dairy cause issues for me so I need to keep my consumption of both of them low.

If you thought I was a difficult person to invite over for dinner before, imagine what it’s been like the last few years. Family and friends are not exactly quick with the dinner invitations anymore because, let’s face it—I am hard to feed.

Eating out is challenging too (salads, dressing on the side) but on the upside, I am a cheap date (no wine, no dessert, no coffee afterwards).

And even though I always ate mostly healthy, I am eating even better now.

Through navigating my eating challenges, I have tried to maintain a sense of humor even when it’s difficult to maintain my weight. (How do you gain weight when you can’t eat anything fun?) Life is too short to stress over the things (and chefs) we can’t control.

Sure, it’s hard to figure out what I can safely eat in a minefield of potential eating disasters, but while my health issues are debilitating at times, they are not terminal. Things could be much worse.

I would not wish for anyone to have the love-hate relationship with food that I have, but if you do experience even mild discomfort after eating a particular food, the idea of keeping a food journal may be helpful to you.

You may be regularly eating something that you’d feel better without.

The old saying that “you are what you eat” really does apply, especially in our world of fast, easy and cheap food-like products that sometimes offer us very little nutritionally.

Learning to read labels and scan restaurant menus has been a good lesson, and one that I recommend…even if (I’m jealous) you are lucky enough to actually be able to eat anything you want.

 

Terri TremblettTerri Tremblett is a freelance writer and editor who also works in finance and dabbles in various artistic pursuits. She is equally at home walking the beach or digging in the dirt but has not yet mastered the art of walking by a book store without going in. Her education did not end when she finished university, as her life regularly proves.

 

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Photo credit

Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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14 Responses to “My Love-Hate Relationship with Food. ~ Terri Tremblett”

  1. angela says:

    funny for me, i can eat NON gmo wheat but not the gmo kind… and i can't eat nightshades (well cooked tomatoes and potatoes and not raw) and i TOTALLY sympathise even though my issues are so much less. it feels like 80% of food in restaurants has some kind of peppers in it that i can't eat and the food always sounds so good and teh peppers are always already baked in…

    my vegan friend just brings her own food to dinner with enough to share but i'm sure you've thought of all that… i'm just sharing some sympathy :)

    • Terri says:

      I never thought of the gmo issue with wheat, but it makes sense that it could cause issues…it is probably much different from the wheat we ate even a few years ago.

      I'm sorry to hear that you have food issues too, Angela…but it's always nice to know that someone can relate. Thanks for reading, and for sharing some sympathy. :)

    • lisa says:

      modern wheat is hybridized..NONE of it is GMO. just thought i would share that..here is an article which explains it more.

      I avoid ALL wheat and gluten. ALL modern wheat is inflammatory. the book Wheat Belly is a great place to start to learn more about it if interested. Heirloom wheat, which is not easy to find, is more digestible, but all of it is glutenous.

  2. Lalana says:

    If you don't have already maybe creating a group somewhere like Facebook or a page/blog where all can discuss this and have support would be good idea. I as well have had these same issues with sensitivity to many things you mentioned. I totally understand not being the one that is easy to just go somewhere to grab a bite with people. Great article. I can relate.

    • Terri says:

      A page/blog is a good suggestion – I will work on that. Thank you for reading, Lalana, it's nice to know that others can relate.

  3. Julie says:

    I nodded my way through your article. I have many food intolerances and food allergies (they are very different processes in the body) and gone into anaphylactic shock more times than I can remember and the fact I am still here to tell the tale is purely down to the genius that is the trusty adrenaline auto-injector.
    I have real issues with the 'food' industry and feel it is high time something was done, at the highest level, about what these factories are churning out and labelling as food. Even though all of my sensitivities are caused by natural substances, I do feel that many types of illness are caused by the rubbish they put in pretty packs and sell as edible. I agree that 'you are what you eat' is absolutely spot on.
    I can sympathise with what you are saying about eating out. I didn't do that for a long time as my son developed allergies too when he was 4 years old and carries adrenaline injections. The worst period is when you are still trying to figure out the cause of the reactions. He is 16 now and we know his triggers pretty well.
    Thanks for writing the article, it is always interesting to read how it is for others too.

    • Terri says:

      thank you for reading, Julie, and for the comments. My children have allergies and asthma the same as I do, and one of them also carries an injector so I can relate to your experience. Even knowing the triggers, it is still challenging.

  4. I'm inspired with your article, Teri. When I was young, I also have this annoying allergy called Urticaria. My life was never been normal and I'm always worried on what I eat. When I have this allergy attack, it was really terrible. I have difficulty breathing so I'm always rushed to a hospital. Fortunately, when I reached 25 my allergy just disappeared. Is there any chance that your allergy will also disappear?

    • Terri says:

      Lonnie, your experiences must have been frightening. It is great that your allergy disappeared, perhaps there is hope for mine too. thanks for reading, and for the comments.

  5. annettemackay says:

    You are not alone, Terri. I've been gluten free, chicken egg free (impossible to go out for breakfast) for about 8 years and now sugar free for about 2 years. Menopause is a near non issue now that I am sugar free. Hot flashes, night sweats, flooding, and wicked pms can be very motivating. ;-)

    • Terri says:

      Annette, I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to deal with your allergies, although it is nice that you have found such a great benefit to being sugar free. Thanks for reading and for sharing…it's nice to know I'm not alone.

  6. David Foster says:

    Hi, I am an acupuncturist from NY, and your pattern seems fairly straightforward diagnostically, thus relatively simple to treat. Have you ever tried it or taken any Chinese herbal formula for a few consecutive weeks or months? Let me know if you'd like to and i might be able tor recommend someone to see near you…

    according to Chinese Medicine there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to enjoy all of those things once in a while once you re-balance the affected channels : ) good luck!

    • Terri says:

      Hi David. Thanks for the feedback. I have tried acupuncture and other alternative therapies with varying degrees of success, but not Chinese herbal formulas…I'm always interested in learning about other alternatives. Please let me know how best to contact you, or feel free to contact me via Facebook or at terrily01@gmail.com. Thanks!

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